Hello dear reader,
Thank you for following along our journey through the eight limbs of yoga. We have explored the five yamas - the social principles: ahimsa, satya, asteya, brahmacharya and aparigraha. This brings us to the five niyama (nee-yah-mah); the moral disciplines towards ourselves, and, as a result, the outside world. They ask us to consider how we treat ourselves. We kick-start the 5 sub-limbs with saucha.
Saucha (sow-chah) translates to purity or cleanliness of both our internal and external environment. Our environment reflects our state of mind and can affect how we feel. A cluttered or messy room can be an indication that we need to explore our internal environment as well as tidy and/or declutter. Now, for me, organising and tidying is fun - I love to declutter and give each possession a place to live in my home. But I know this is not the case for everyone. Regardless of whether you find it fun or not, keeping your external environment clean and tidy is vital for keeping your mind balanced. I highly recommend reading “The Art of Tidying" by Marie Kondo and practicing her method - it has changed my life. You can also refer back to the aparigraha article and consider where you are holding onto possessions you can let go of.
We can also consider the place where we practice yoga: is it clean? Is your mat clean? Is the area free from clutter? Does the place you practice feel calm, relaxed and peaceful? If possible, dedicate a specific place to practice yoga - it will help your mind associate that area as a sacred space and time for you. This doesn’t need to be a large space or somewhere that your yoga mat is always rolled out. It could simply be a specific part of your bedroom or lounge where you roll out your yoga mat and put it away again at the end of your practice. Just ensure the space you choose feels inviting and pure.
Within yogic philosophy our sense organs play a huge role in our yoga practice. Therefore, when considering how we can purify our external environment we must also consider what our senses take in. From food, drink, TV, books, social media, the people in our lives… the list goes on. Spend some time contemplating the intake of information through your senses and their cleanliness or purity.
- Are these things adding value to your life?
- How do you feel after spending time with / doing them?
- How could you add more saucha stimuli to your life for your senses to take in?
- Most of us are addicted to social media so take some time to 'clean' your online space - if something makes you feel rubbish - unfollow!
The Saucha of our internal environment involves purifying our minds and body. As you may remember from previous articles our thoughts become our words, our words become our actions, our actions become our habits and our habits form our character. So we can look at this at the thought level, word level and action level.
We can purify our thoughts through observing them. Through our meditation practice we learn to become a witness and watch our thoughts come and go. Through our journaling practice we can explore our thoughts further. Through both of these practices we notice the quality of our thoughts and are able to detach from them - learning that our thoughts are not facts. With time we can let go of thoughts that are unkind, untrue and no longer serving us and replace them with more healthy thoughts.
The words we speak are imperative since our mind doesn’t know the difference between what’s true and what isn’t. So when we speak negatively about ourselves and self-deprecate our mind doesn’t realise this. When we say “oh, I’m so stupid” our mind believes that and over time the stories we tell about ourselves become our truth, despite being rooted in falsehood. We can begin to rewrite these stories by observing what we are saying and thinking before we speak, endeavouring to only speak kindly about ourselves, to others and to ourselves. When I was a primary school teacher, I would encourage my pupils to ask themselves three questions before they spoke - is it true, is it kind, is it necessary? This is something us adults could use too!
We can purify our actions by considering our intentions. When our intentions are pure and we act with ahimsa and satya then we should feel confident to be ourselves and do what we truly desire, irrespective of what others may think or say. This will lead to you attracting similar people in your life since energy attracts energy - but the change has to start from within. Where attention goes, energy flows so ask yourself: where is your attention going? Where do you want energy to flow in your life?
Finally, we can purify our bodies by bathing, especially before practicing yoga & meditation to remove toxins, warm up the muscles and clear / freshen the mind. There are also a range of cleansing techniques in yoga called shatkarma which include jala neti (nasal cleansing) and kapalbhati (a breathwork technique) amongst others. You can learn more about these by working with myself one-to-one or other qualified yoga teachers.
As always, if you have any questions, thoughts or reflections please do reach out - my DMs and emails are always open.
With love and gratitude,